In response to last week’s international review of the UK – the Universal Periodic Review – at which the eyes of the world were fixed on the UK’s human rights record, 82 groups from across the country have released a joint statement calling on the UK Government to take action to better realise rights at home.
On 10 November, members of the UN Human Rights Council reviewed the UK’s human rights record and highlighted numerous concerns, shining a light on a wide range of areas where the UK Government is failing to meet its international legal obligations.
Five of the key recommendations raised by the Human Rights Council were proposed by us in our submission before the review took place.
There was particular concern over the potential repeal of the Human Rights Act, the rights of children and young people, the rights of migrants and people seeking asylum, rising levels of hate crime, discrimination faced by Trans people, the protection of all women and girls, failure to bring rights into our domestic legislation, and soaring levels of poverty with specific mentions of access to food, adequate housing, and rising homelessness.
Member states made various recommendations on how the UK could improve its human rights record. One indication of the state of economic, social and cultural rights in the UK was when Angola – a country where more than half the population live on less than £1.75 a day – urged the UK to adopt an emergency poverty strategy to protect its most vulnerable citizens from the cost-of-living crisis. This was covered by The Guardian who interviewed us for the story.
We have been working to promote engagement in such international processes from groups across the UK. In advance of the review last week, we held an online training session for groups to learn about getting involved in the process, including how it can be used in advocacy and campaigning. We have also coordinated this civil society response.
Civil society organisations across the UK are calling on the UK Government to:
- accept the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review.
- take action (including legal changes) to implement recommendations made during this, and previous reviews.
- commit to an improved engagement with civil society and affected people (including particularly impacted groups highlighted above) during each phase of the review, including the implementation of recommendations.
- adopt a National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP), which encompasses economic, social and cultural rights, building on the good practices demonstrated in Scotland, which would include consistent and meaningful dialogues with civil society to ensure wider protection of human rights.
- establish a ‘National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow-up’ (NMRF) to coordinate the implementation of recommendations from the UPR and provide transparency on progress of this work.
- reaffirm its commitment to human rights and its international obligations, in particular by scrapping current plans to undermine the Human Rights Act by replacing it with a Rights Removal Bill and confirming its commitment to implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights whether interim or final.
At the review the UK Government positioned itself as a world leader in human rights and in response to the various issues raised, reaffirmed its commitment to upholding human rights on the global stage.
Now it’s time to hold it to account, and make sure the rhetoric matches the reality.
Read the full statement here
Image by Kimberlie Clinthorne-Wong